Monday, June 15, 2009

Size Does Matter - Learning About Portion Control

I blog often about the importance of food journaling. It wasn't until I started journaling that I was really able to get a grip on my nutrition and make the changes necessary to lose weight. Journaling forced me to be accountable for what I was eating and how much I was eating.

The days of consuming a 6 oz filet mignon pan fried in a tablespoon of butter (472 calories) were replaced by my handy George Foreman grill and a 3 oz petite filet (185 calories).

I typically hear alot of moans and groans when I tell people they'll need to weigh and measure foods. The good news is that after a while, it becomes fairly simple to eye-ball portions.

In the meantime, here are a few guidelines you may find useful, courtesy of Cara Regas (MA, ATC, ACE certified), a strength and conditioning coach at Fitness Quest 10:


  • 1 cup of cereal flakes - The size of a fist
  • 1 pancake/ waffle - A compact disc
  • ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta - ½ of a baseball or an ice cream scoop
  • 1 slice of bread - A cassette tape
  • Potato - A computer mouse

Fruits and Veggies

  • Apple, pear, banana - A baseball
  • 1 cup mixed fruits - A tennis ball
  • 1 cup cooked veggies - A fist
  • 1 cup raw veggies - A rounded handful


  • 2 oz low fat cheese - 2 domino's or 6 dice
  • 1 cup Low fat/ fat free milk or yogurt - A fist

Meat and Beans

  • 3 oz fish, 1 chicken breast, ¼ hamburger patty - A deck of cards or palm of hand (no fingers)
  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter - A ping pong ball
  • ½ cup cooked legumes - An ice cream scoop

Train hard; stay strong.



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5 Responses to "Size Does Matter - Learning About Portion Control"
  1. pierini said...
    June 15, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    I agree about the power of food journaling, something I have done for years, although not currently. It has a subtle ability to modify your behavior.

    More powerful than journaling, in my opinion, is something I am currently doing - intermittent fasting. I started it in February 2009 as a 40 days of Lent sacrifice (not to lose weight) and enjoyed the lifestyle part of it so much that I continue it to this day on Mondays through Fridays.

  2. Kelley Moore said...
    June 15, 2009 at 5:21 PM

    Hey Susan, I think this is a great post and very helpful. I am working to be able to eyeball portions in order to not have to measure all the time. Journaling helps me and these examples are very helpful too. Makes a lot of sense. This type of thing helps me keep my portions true to size instead of growing, especially on my favorite foods!

  3. kuri said...
    June 16, 2009 at 3:16 AM

    I find your blog interesting, but today no. I really don't like your system.

    I agree that's very important to encourage people to learn about evaluation of quantities of food.
    But I am a teacher and I fail to be able to calculate the approximate total calory count of the list you propose. I can imagine what my students would do of it, and they would surely feel they are doing good. It's counter-productive to comfort them in mistakes.

    I can understand the weight watchers system, and other visual diet texbooks.
    But here, that doesn't make sense,as you don't detail the "rule". How many of portions a day to get the 700 cal or 1500 cal or 3500 cal person needs ?

    Then, you will have a huge difference if your fist of veggies is sweet pumkin or zucchini or konyaku (that is roughly a zero calory vegetable). So your oversimplication brings nothing. That may even give the impression to some that a similar volume of any "such category" has the same nutritious value.

    I understand the desire of making thing simple, but in that matter, nature made things complicated. If people don't want to deal with the fuzzy logic of ingredients, they cannot evaluate their food themselves. The only simplification is trusting someone else (Mum, their cook,the cook of a restaurant, the industry...) to do the counting for themselves.

    Then, "a fist" means nothing, unless you own a scale that calculate in such a unit. I have observed hundreds of my students trying to follow recipes with that kind of indication and I saw different people measuring any amount between 30 g to 150 g for a "fist" of the same ingredient.
    My experience shows me that many people are "volume blind". They don't see the difference between a 40g egg and a 75 g egg. They call me a "witch" when I tell them : "This scale has a problem, it indicates 35 g while the load is about 100 g.". And they fail the recipes because of their low ability to evaluate quantities.
    They can be progressively trained to evaluate better the volumes, but I don't see any short cut. And I won't say that everybody will develop that skill (you'd better start young). People that do other activities like drawing, calligraphy, or even archery, shooting tend to adapt nearly imediatly, their eyes are precise at measuring. For the others, quick students reach our level (of food pros, cooks and teachers) and are able to measure their 50g of flour with the eye after 3 months of daily training. Let's say, they have to try and fail about 100 times to get the precise feeling.

    Well, if they can't, I don't think it's good to let them live in their misconceptions. I always explain them their "dosing problem". Scales and measuring jugs are good judges. Now you can find credit-card size flat scales that you can stick even in the tinest kitchen.

    Note that I have seen on TV a diet methods that was using jungling. They said that by learning the skill people became more accurate at evaluating volumes of food and also at judging their own body image, so when they became good at the ball game, they'd adapt their way of eating. I don't believe in it as a complete dieting method, but surely that does help them in the kitchen.

  4. Susan said...
    June 16, 2009 at 7:17 AM

    Thanks for the comments all!

    Kuri, I certainly agree with you that a food scale is an invaluable tool for the kitchen (along with measuring spoons and measuring cups)! However, the reality is that most of us will find ourselves in a restaurant or eating at someone's home at some point whereas we simply do not have access to a scale. For me, having guidelines for such instances are helpful, even if they may not be 100% accurate.

    This system isn't meant to dictate how many calories someone should be eating in a given day as that will vary individual to individual. It's simply a means to control portions when other tools are unavailable.

    Ultimately, we need to figure out how to incorporate eating guidelines into our lives that enable us to live, and not become slaves to our diets.

  5. Health Care News said...
    June 24, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    I totally agree with you. I always believe that to remain healthy, healthy food is very important. Thanks for the information.


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